First Aid for Choking

Your child may choke if an object (usually a small toy or food) is lodged in the airway or the trachea, preventing the normal airflow into and out of his or her lungs. You should immediately do something when you see the first signs of choking to prevent any damage.

Basically, your child’s brain will be deprived of oxygen if air does not flow into and out of his or her lungs. In this case, choking could cause brain damage, threatening your child’s life.

What are the signs your child is choking?

Your child may be choking and need first aid treatment if he or she cannot breathe, wheezing or gasping, and changes color from bright red to blue. Other signs include when your child appears panicked, waves arms or grabs at his or her throat, and is unable to cry, talk, or make noise.

If you see these signs, start the Heimlich maneuver immediately. This is the standard first aid procedure for choking. But you only have to do it if you have been trained. Thus it is very important that you have training in both Heimlich maneuve and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

What is the Heimlich maneuver?

In the Heimlich maneuver, the aim of the rescuer is to dislodge the foreign object through a rash burst of air forced upward from the diaphragm through the trachea. It is a simple process that must be done with caution, especially if you are rescuing a young child.

The Heimlich maneuver is safest when performed by someone trained to do it right. If it is carried out the improper way, your child could suffer an injury. One special version of this procedure is designed for infants to reduce the risk of hurting their small bodies.

If you want to learn how to perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, you can approach hospitals and YMCAs, which offer basic first aid courses. You can also visit local chapters of the American Heart Association for training.

What to do?

If your child is coughing and choking but can talk and breathe, do not panic. The trachea is not totally blocked and the best way is to do nothing. Your child will be fine when his or her coughing spell ends.

If your child is conscious but is turning blue and is not able to talk, breathe, or make noise, perform the Heimlich maneuver. If you do not know how to do it properly contact 911 for help.

Finally, if your child is unconscious and is no longer breathing, call for help. Then perform CPR immediately, only if you know how to do it properly. If not, call 911.